Friday , Mar , 13 , 2009 C.Y. Ellis

VC’s final days as a Net wearing on him? Look to Lopez please

VC's final days as a Net wearing on him? Look to Lopez pleaseIt’s safe to say the big three didn’t work out as planned. The trio of Kidd, Carter, and Jefferson proved to be playoff worthy, but came up well short in the promised land department.

Vince Carter coming to the Nets served both parties well. Carter got the fresh start he was looking for after a dismal ending in Canada, while Nets owner Bruce Ratner was looking for a box office draw after the controversial Kenyon Martin departure.

As Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson were eventually traded, Carter would become the lone franchise player up until the emergence of point guard Devin Harris.  The two have created a star back court that may or may not be up to playoff standards, but nonetheless has propelled the Nets into a position that most thought would be impossible this year.

As always, most predicted the East to be more competitive top to bottom this year, while I took a wait and see approach. Here’s a excerpt from one of my Nets articles in the first two weeks of the season:

“As far as playoff chances, I put more stock into the East not being that good. Every year, people say “The East is going to be much improved”, but it never happens. I could be wrong, but I’d certainly like to see it first. If the East shakes out like I think it will, I could see New Jersey making a run at the 8 spot. We’ve seen crazier things in the basketball world.”

Well, here are the Nets. A team in the playoff race when it shouldn’t be, thanks in part to he incompetent lower half of the East.

The other half to look for optimism centers on the fact of the Nets already having 28 wins. With 18 games to go, it’s safe to say the Nets may not have to go on a torrid streak to make the post season, but going well over .500 should be the requirement.

The fact is, all the teams fighting for the eighth spot are doing a terrible job of competing. The only team I can disqualify from this bunch is the Charlotte Bobcats, who amazingly enough have a winning record in the last ten games.

So how should New Jersey get themselves a slaughter date with Cleveland or Boston?

Well, this is tough to say, but if Vince Carter keeps struggling, then you must limit how many shots he jacks up. It’s either two things right now with Vince, he’s either in serious decline(which means he thinks he can’t blow by people), or he simply has no desire to take the ball to the basket and rather shoot long jumpers all day.

Carter has been in a funk, he’s just hurting the team at the wrong time. We all thought he had the breakout game against the Knicks, but Carter has gone back into a shell that’s discouraging at the wrong time of the year.

I’m not trying to jump on Vince Carter unfairly. Carter has become a better all around player in terms of the leadership he’s provided, and his overall floor game that consists of an underrated distributing. Vince has done some good things, but it’s time to see what the rookie is all about.

Yes, Brook Lopez. If your taking away Lopez’s touches to give the ball to a struggling Vince, and he’s not getting it done, then you need to look back in the other direction.

I’m not talking about Lopez and Harris on the pick & roll. That’s always going to the main play run for years to come. I’m talking about taking the ball inside with Brook getting his touches down low. I don’t care if Brook is a little bit raw at this point in his career. At least the ball would be going inside. Lopez does have promise on the block, and as long as the ball goes inside, I’d take that over seeing too many jump shots.

I can see lots disagreeing with me because Carter is a proven vet and Lopez is a rookie. But I want to see what the rookie is made of. I also want to give him confidence. And maybe, just maybe, somebody else contributing consistently would help take pressure off Vince. Somebody besides Devin Harris. Because lets face it, maybe Vince feels he has to do too much in what will probably be his last season as a New Jersey Net.

Once again, I’m not trying to jump on Vince Carter. I think my frustration as a whole goes at the Nets team that lives and dies by the three point shot. I hear commentators speaking in regards to the Nets dribble-drive offense, implying it’s built for aggressive three point shooting. They are right to a certain extent. But the Nets team settles too much, and must get into the paint.

Do defenses load up and pack the paint?  Yes, of course they do. But you can’t always let the defense dictate what you do. The Nets have, and when they do this, it lets a defense relax and not feel obligated to chase three point shooters off the line. It must be penetrate and kick, not pass, pass, and shoot. 

When it comes down to it, Vince Carter will have ample opportunities to shut me up and make me look like a fool. Rest assured, Lawrence Frank will do his best to pull Vince out of this rut. Because I can’t deny this fact: Harris and Carter playing well for these last 18 games will get the Nets into the post season. When those two play well, the Nets look like a playoff team.

Regardless of how this season plays out, I have no problems giving thanks to Vince Carter. Though he hasn’t lived up to expectations over here, he’s certainly entertained and proved a level of maturity that will do nothing but piss off people from Canada.